Sajid Ali, a farmer in Peshawar, used to live a life which in economic terms called as ‘hand to mouth living’ due to limited income he earned through cultivation of routine crops like wheat, sugar cane and vegetables on his 15 acres of land. A switchover from utilization of his land from growing routine crops to fast growing trees in 2006, proved to be a favor of lady luck for him which brought a very positive turn around in his life.
‘I used to ride bicycle, but now proudly drives a Toyota Corolla car and living a very happy life due to boost in may earning,’ says Sajid Ali while sharing his experience of growing poplar and eucalyptus on his land. I am not the only one who benefited from commercial forestry, the concept has been proved to be a boon for every land owners who converted from ordinary crops cultivation to growing trees, he told APP. Giving simple mathematical calculation to elucidate his view point, Sajid Ali said on one acre of land around 800 trees are planted. So I plant approximately12000 trees on my 15 acres land.
The price of one tree in market after maturity of five years is around Rs: 2000 to Rs: 3000, depends on weight of the log. If I make lowest estimates of 12000 trees at the rate of Rs: 2000, my earning after five years is around Rs: 24 million, Rs: 4800,000 on annual basis and Rs: 400,000 on monthly basis, Sajid claimed. This windfall profit, though after a gap of five years, is very huge and cannot be earned through cultivation of routine crops on 15 acres of land, he added.
‘Sajid Ali is a small land owners, there are big land lords who very easily earn millions of rupees on annual basis just through plantation of fast growing trees,’ says Niaz Ali Haji, another farmer in Gul Bela village in Charsadda district of KP. A visit to Gul Bela village by this scribe found countless number of humanly grown forests of poplar and eucalyptus. Apart from enjoying improvement in earnings through growing forest, we also enjoy pleasant weather in our area where temperature is much better due to increase in green cover, Niaz tells APP.
‘High financial returns are attracting growers to plant Broad Leave Specie (fast growing trees) and the practice is also helping in protection of coniferous specie (natural forest) besides reducing the impact of climate change by sinking carbon,’ observed Shafqat Munir, Chief Conservator Southern Circle Forest Department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The concept of growing poplar and eucalyptus was promoted in Khyber Pakhtunwa to provide a substitute for fuel wood in the wake of pressure on natural forest after arrival of hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees in1980, Shafqat explains.
The environment of Khyber Pakhtunkwa proved suitable for planting these species which also attracted businessmen to establish match factories and other wood based industries including chip board and Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) ensuing in flourishing of commercial forestry in the region. ‘There are currently nine MDF plants operating in Pakistan producing annually 324,732 cubic meters sheets,’ apprises Syed Mujtaba Husnain Zaidi, Director Forestry ZRK Industry Peshawar, one of the biggest MDF units in South Asia. Out of nine MDF plants, five are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, two in Punjab and two in Sind.
Apart from MDF industry, there are twenty five particle based plants (chip board) collectively producing around 600,000 cubic meters sheets annually in the country without using a single kg of wood from natural forest of the country, he apprised APP. The wood based industry of Pakistan is annually consuming 13,875 acres of tree plantation and therefore causing to grow 80,000 acres of plantation at any given time under farm forestry which is equal to 323 square kilometers area, Zaidi added.
About impact of commercial forestry on environment, Zaidi said one acre of plantation of tree yields 100 tons of wood and absorb same amount of carbon. So plantation on 80,000 acres of land is causing carbon sequestration to the tune of 8,000,000 tons, thus contributing its due share in reducing impacts of climate change in the country. ‘The most important use of eucalyptus is the contribution to ozone layer due to its evergreen nature so as to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen in larger amounts throughout the year. This tree is helpful in reducing ground temperature and global warming,’ reads a study report conducted by Forest Department of KP on Environmental Impacts of Eucalyptus Plantation.
The study, conducted in 2004 after widespread criticism and various reports about negative impact of eucalyptus on soil, ground water, agriculture crop and biodiversity, also recommended considering eucalyptus (camaldulensis) as prime species for waterlogged and saline sites. The study concludes that like other ever green tree species, it also consume more water but is not responsible for downward trend in ground water which is due to 8 to 10 years prolonged drought.
According to Research and Development Directorate of KP Forest Department, the total fuel wood household consumption of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is estimated to be 15.532 mm3 (cubic millimetres) contributed by forests, rangelands, wastelands and agriculture sector. The predominant sector is agriculture sector contribution about 9.334 mm3 that is 60.09pc of the total contribution while on the other hand forests contributed 5.006 mm3 that is 32.23pc and the rangeland/ waste land cumulative share is 7.67pc of the total. ‘Demand of wood based industry is the main source behind promotion of commercial forestry as 75 to 80 percent trees are procured by these industries,’ said Allah Dad, procurement officer at ZRK.—APP